amy winehouse

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[Ed. note — with the release of “Marry Me” tomorrow, this post will be partially invalidated. But I wrote it, so I’m gonna post it. Nyah.]

Catching up with my RSS, I’ve been noticing the half-year summary posts popping up. Sadly I’ve also noticed that many of those lists feature no female bands, no albums from the ladies’ side. I won’t single anyone out, because taste is taste, and there are many great male bands that of course should be noticed as well. I’ll just do my little part to remedy the sitchyation.

“But Zara,” you’ll say, “what female releases were there this year? Gosh, I can only think of ‘The Reminder,’ and Feist is all anyone talked about for three months, and we’re boooooored of hearing ‘1,2,3,4’.” To you I say, you tried ‘Sea-Lion Woman,’ right? But also, I found that the first half of 2007 was chock full of female acts. In fact, if I had a top ten, probably 7 of them would be female. Cassadaga? Boring. Neon Bible? Meh. Hissing Fauna? Don’t get me started. Here are some albums that you might have overlooked in your zeal to rush out and buy “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.” *

01. The Postmarks – The Postmarks | Myspace

All right, I’m fudging this one because it’s female fronted — I swear this band ought to be called the Postcards, because it reminds me of how you feel when you get a postcard from Hawaii. No, I don’t mean envious. I mean, you close your eyes and for a second you’re standing on the beach and palm trees are rustling and a hammock sways slightly in the breeze and the ocean is impossibly blue.

02. Essie Jain – We Made This Ourselves | Myspace

Sometimes the songs on this album start to blur together, but the harmonies alone keep Jain soaring. I could listen to her all day, and I do, since she’s what’s playing in my car. If you need a comparison, think Dido without the beats.

03. Kristin Hersh – Learn To Sing Like A Star | Myspace

For many a long year I have listened to Ms. Hersh — she’s a songwriting powerhouse, not just a pretty voice who has two other bands. The new album is her first (solo) in four years, and it’s just ridiculously good. Ridiculously!

04. Cake On Cake – I Guess I Was Daydreaming | Myspace

This Swedish band is basically Helena Sundin, and yeah, it’s about as sweet as it sounds (extra!). But I’m really fond of the harmonies, the languid melodies, the simple phrasing. Who wouldn’t want to turn on “The One I Say Goodnight To” right before bed — You are the one I say goodnight to / Goodnight, my love. In the absence of my mother tucking me in, I’ll take Cake On Cake.

05. Sara Bareilles – Little Voice | Myspace

Think “Little Voice” in the same sense that Robin Hood said “Little John.” Bareilles sings pop-friendly tunes with strong piano backing, and she’s sassy. I like sassy — plus she’s a local girl, so yay for that. I have not heard all the album but there’s enough music available on her site to get a good sense of whether you’d like it or not (and I do).

06. Charlotte Gainsbourg – 5:55 | Myspace

I guess I can apply the term “chanteuse” to Gainsbourg, since she’s French, right? OK good, seriously, because she is so beautiful, and is also one of those rare actors who can actually sing, and she’s even featured on “Pocket Symphony.” My favorite song, “5:55,” sounds very Air-esque (because they wrote the music) but could that possibly be a bad thing? No, no it couldn’t.

07. Au Revoir Simone – The Bird of Music | Myspace

Even when they’re singing something called “Sad Song,” these three don’t sound very sad. “The Bird of Music” alternates poppy electronica and more gentle ballads. Sometimes it drags but overall it’s accessible and fun.

Other albums released that I’ve already written about —

08. Angelique Kidjo – Djin Djin
09. The Detroit Cobras – Tied & True
10. Amy Winehouse – Back To Black

Please give these albums a try! If I missed someone, you know where the comments button is.

*Or any other male-fronted band. Don’t get your boxers in a twist.

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Well! My computer imploded over the weekend … first the video card, then the power supply, then the motherboard. It was the Great Computer Implosion of 07. So my dear husband went out and bought a new one, and also saved my old hard drive, which meant he saved all my music. It took me awhile to resort back through it and figure everything out, but I’m back.

Also, I had to take all files down that were hosted on Filelodge … they have been “down for maintenance” for like a month. The problem with these places is that people don’t just put up sweet l’il music files … they put up some terribly nasty crap. But I’m serious when I say that you can contact me for any tracks that have been taken down. I’m happy to attach them to an email or put them up on YSI. Filexoom remains, though my bandwidth is almost up … and then likely I will have to go with something else, probably something like YSI. Which is why I repeat my previous offer. Ask me; I won’t say no. How could I?

Also also, Largehearted Boy is holding a contest for its fifth birthday — all you have to do is go here and drop a comment and you could win 50 cds. Little work! Lotta possible payoff! Go forth!

And now on to Ms. Winehouse. A friend of mine sent me the single “Rehab,” from her album entitled “Back to Black,” and I was instantly attracted to her Motown-fusion style. Winehouse obviously has a solid knowledge of jazz, classic r&b, and motown sound. Her voice is beautiful (it doesn’t sound like it belongs with her body, a comment she probably hears often, and if you see the video for “Rehab” you may well say to yourself, as I did, “Is she … lip-synching?”). But the real swingers on “Rehab” are the sax and the piano; the lyrics are kind of inane but they just rock when you pair up Winehouse’s torch singing with those fine instruments.

Winehouse is old enough to know about drinking and broken hearts and waking up alone; and she gives a nod to Billy Paul with her song “Me and Mr Jones (Fuckery).” But the album on the whole is one-note; it’s unhappy and it self-medicates and sometimes I just don’t want to be around it. Perhaps Winehouse is too young to realize that the same tradition that brought us the St Louis Blues also brought us Louis Armstrong, and his enduring tune about it sometimes being a pretty wonderful world. Nevertheless, this album is enormously popular over the pond, and they know what they’re about over there. Give it a try.

Amy Winehouse – Site | Myspace | Label (Island)

Amy Winehouse – You Know I’m No Good
Amy Winehouse – Love Is A Losing Game